New leader of Thurrock Council pledges ‘no more deals behind closed doors’

The new leader of Thurrock Council has taken up office pledging there will be no more “behind closed door deals”.

John Kent, officially began his new Labour administration at the annual council meeting on Wednesday and promised “openness and honesty”.

After being elected, Cllr Kent, whose party won 27 seats at the local elections, admitted there would be tough times ahead.

Alluding to the council’s disastrous financial position brought about by secretive and ill-advised investment deals, Cllr Kent said: “We need to be clear that Thurrock Council, although on an improvement journey is a failing council. We are a council in the grip of Government intervention and what we do is being overseen by commissioners.

“We are a council that is functionally bankrupt. The council’s debt remains at over £400 million. To set the current year’s budget we needed a capitalization direction of over £60 million and we need to find revenue savings of at least £60million.”

Cllr Kent added: “We have to change the culture of this council from top to bottom. If we don’t do that then we stand little chance of getting back to being a sustainable local authority. We have to start by being fully open, transparent and honest.

“It can’t be business as usual as we set out to give Thurrock the fresh start it needs and that everyone voted for.

“There will be no more behind doors deals. We will be prudent, crack down waste and be laser focused on delivering for the residents of Thurrock.

Cllr Kent welcomed newly elected councillors and advised: “Don’t become obsessed with social media, keep a warm heart and grow a thick skin”.

He said: Ultimately we are all here to represent our communities to offer help and advice to our residents and to make tough decisions about the future shape of public services that will almost inevitably be unpopular in some quarters but I’m old fashioned enough to believe that all of us here tonight are driven by a desire to make a positive desire to make a difference in our communities and by a deep sense of service.

“We are determined to be better. To do the right thing for Thurrock, to be the fresh start that we need and to earn back the trust of those we were elected to serve.”

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter